The First Urban Space Dialogue in Kerala organised by Centre for Public Policy Research Centre for Urban Studies (CUS) in partnership with Kochi Muzuris Biennale Foundation (KMB) turned out to be a fusion of creativity and reality as artists, architects and policy guys converged at Aspinwall, tje major venue of the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2014. The Dialogue featured Nuru Karim of Nu.De; Raj Cherubal of Chennai City Connect Foundation and Advisor to CPPR; Dr Dhanuraj, Chairman, CPPR; Jitish Kallat, Curator;Bose Krishnamachary and Riyas Komu of KMB. The Dialogue brainstormed on ideas on Urban Spaces and the necessity of it in the state of Kerala. The panelist shared their experiences and vision of creating the right urban spaces which will enlighten the curiousness of the citizenry.
Rahul V.Kumar, Research Director at CPPR shares his thoughts on the Biennale and the Urban Space Dialogue…
The Kochi Muziris Biennale has attracted large crowd. However, the quality of this crowd to access and take back innovative ideas from the installations and exhibited works of art cannot be generalized. One look is sufficient to reflect the heterogeneity. Alongside this assemblage there were also events and discussions focusing on several diverse topics but with an inherent theme of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberation’ resonating from it. In this context several thoughts are significant to be considered by all enthusiasts and supporters of the events. For me the significance of the Biennale lies on the nature of it metamorphoses. Before I explain this it is required to add that the nature of success does not make the event devoid of scope for further unplanned improvement.
For a starter, the Biennale occurred or was situated within a larger system where the state had significant controls. The art works exhibiting the importance of freedom and liberty had to contest and place itself within this system. It is no mere achievement. As one of the speakers in the Urban Space Dialogue (held by CPPR in partnership with the biennale) Raj Cherubal of City Connect, Chennai said, “dealing with the state needs preparation”. “It will be time consuming and requires multiple levels of interventions.” However, what is most important, as Raj claims, is to identify the right effort from the bogus ones. For this a level of scepticism helps.
The essential question, however, is why such an idea of freedom and liberty could succeed within a controlled enterprise. From the state’s side, the Biennale could be highlighted as a success case which contest’s any claim that the state is authoritative. It could indicate an accommodative state encouraging liberal thoughts and ideas and willing to further them. However, the key question pitches ‘accommodation’ as opposed to the ‘willingness’ to spread ideas of freedom and liberty. Will the state accommodate an enterprise which forces people to generate new ideas that could transform widely held notions on how individuals and institutions should be functioning? As D.Dhanuraj, Chairman of CPPR emphatically stated during the Urban Space Dialogue, “the Biennale should motivate the students of physics/and in general to question their teachers and force them out of the conventional monologues in our classrooms.” This is a point where the Biennale treads on a possibly contentious path. A point where art and ideas become capable of influencing the traditions and accepted systems existing in the country or state. I strongly believe that the nature of the Biennale’s origin has great scope for this.
The origin of the event as narrated by several of the speakers during the Urban Space Dialogue seemed to indicate something. For me events like the Biennale reflect a liberal growth of ideas because it has been created by a voluntary association of individuals who shared similar thoughts. It had more characteristics of spontaneity than that of a planned origin. Further the laws and governing structures of the association emerged through persuasions rather than compulsion. However, such spontaneity in ideas meet largely rigid state structures before it could be conceptualized. I fear that such interactions will have significant influences in restricting the full scope of these spontaneous ideas. I appreciate the effort of all the artists and the organizers; but any compromise with the state while conceptualizing spontaneous ideas is likely to have long-term consequences.
The second most important aspect of the biennale would be to take forward the idea in the same manner in which it evolved. The best way in which this could be done is to promote the concept of freedom and liberty which were exhibited during the process. The way in which this could be achieved is by allowing for further voluntary associations and spreading the event beyond narrow walls. In other words the Biennale should evolve to promote competition. Bose Krishnamachary of Biennale Foundation emphasized this at various instances in the dialogue. The voluntary association of artists and architects and all others who promoted the event should allow the free flow of ideas from all possible sources. The heterogeneity in the assemblage should be the point of origin of this cause.
However, there are areas of concern. There were strong reflections from within the participants that the fear of the state constantly blinds our thoughts. People feared that corruption and bureaucracy disrupts all well intended ideas. Raj’s words were slowly resonating in my head when I heard the word corruption: multiple interventions, delays and scepticism are key when dealing with policies at the state level. It is easy to disrupt a spontaneous order through specific legislations or interventions of the state. However, if the fear of the state is still high in the mind of the enthusiastic participant, I strongly believe that the message of the Biennale, of liberty and freedom, has not reached many. Does that mean we do not want ideas for fear of the state? This is the point where the nature of the Biennale’s origin, ‘voluntary associations’, ‘spontaneity’ and ‘persuasion’ along with ‘competition’ turns out to be strong words giving clear indications on the trust that we can have on specific ideas. There are no clear indications of the future at this point, but the Biennale surely was triggered by a strong natural instinct and very little coercion.
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Mathrubhumi, 24th March 2015